Could performing a particular breathing technique help dry eye sufferers produce more tears? New research published in Ocular Surface suggests that reduced tear secretion may be partly caused by an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system (made up of both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems). The sympathetic system is responsible for regulating cardiovascular functions while the parasympathetic system controls the relaxation process.
Twenty Japanese women between the ages of 20 and 54 were recruited for the small study. Each participant was to visit the research lab on two separate occasions. Upon the first visit, half of the subjects were asked to breathe in their normal manner for a few minutes. The other half were assigned to breathe abdominally (a specific ‘belly’ breathing technique that involves inhaling for four seconds and exhaling for six) for three minutes. Each subject performed the opposite breathing technique during their second visit to the lab. Tear volume was measured on each occasion before and after breathing sessions and then again at the 15 and 30 minute marks.
The results showed that tear volume increased nearly 50% within 15 minutes of the slow, abdominal breathing sessions compared with the ‘normal’ breathing sessions. Study authors suggest that the slow, mindful breathing might help to restore autonomic control and, in turn, improve the volume of tears. However, no significant increase in tear volume was observed directly after the abdominal breathing.
For those who want to give the breathing technique a try, simply sit in a comfortable, up-right position with a straight spine. Now, take a deep breath in through the nose for four seconds and allow the diaphragm to relax and the stomach to push out. Exhale slowly through the mouth and allow the stomach to return to normal. Typically, exhaling should take about double the time it took to inhale. Continue breathing this way for a few minutes to reap the potential ocular benefits.
Will you attempt to implement deep, abdominal breathing in your everyday life to help ward off dry eye symptoms? Or are the results of this preliminary study not compelling enough? As usual, it is important to consult a doctor who can accurately diagnose Dry Eye Disease and recommend a suited treatment plan.